Clinton selection of Shalikashvili tangles tongues


August 14, 1993|By Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- For the past three days, President Clinton's selection of Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, the Polish-born officer who commands NATO and U.S. military forces in Europe, as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has had news reporters and editors tripping over their tongues.

The general's surname got mangled on the air and mispronounced in newspapers so often that military officials were scrambling to help reporters say it correctly. But then, many of them couldn't agree on a pronunciation either.

Finally, in what will have to suffice for an official declaration until the general is heard on the matter, Army Maj. James Peterson, a spokesman for the general at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Mons, Belgium, reported yesterday that his boss said his name this way: Shally-kash-VEE-lee.

"All of us within the headquarters here, every person I know on the staff, says it with 'shally' as in 'alley' and 'kash' as in cash with a 'c,' " Major Peterson said.

"It's an Americanized version, but that's the way he says it," another U.S. military officer explained.

European tongues tend to soften the vowels, pronouncing the general's name with syllables that rhyme with "jolly" and "gosh," a German officer at NATO headquarters added.

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